The NWSL Draft took place in Chicago on Thursday, and with it, a new round of comments from league managing director of operations Amanda Duffy.
Of local concern, Duffy was asked about the prospects for expansion during a scrum with reporters at the Draft, and her comments didn’t necessarily break any big news, but indicated that new teams are on the horizon.
“Expansion is something we continue to work on and we’ve made a significant amount of progress the last six to 12 months with identifying markets, identifying ownerships, and really wanting to take steps in intentional ways that brings quality to markets, quality of facilities, quality of match venues that provide the resources owners need to be successful,” she said.
When asked specifically about New York as an expansion market (which technically already has a badly mismanaged team, Sky Blue FC, in the tristate region), Duffy complimented New York but also specifically brought up Los Angeles, too.
“New York is a great market. Between New York, LA, we’re talking the top media markets in the United States, so it would certainly be a benefit to the league to have a larger presence in that market. But we continue to work on that and want to make sure any expansion, we believe, is with the right groups, the right situations, that do bring the league forward.”
When asked if they’re in talks with specific ownership groups: “There’s conversations,” Duffy said.
She also noted after being asked specifically about Barcelona as a potential expansion team owner that the league has been in talks for more than a year with the Spanish behemoth, saying they have a great brand in the U.S. and around the world. Barcelona has been rumored to be a possible co-partner with Los Angeles Football Club for a new NWSL team. Duffy did not say anything specific about LAFC or any other entity in California.
As far as timeline, it sounds as though the league could be getting serious about adding one or more teams next year.
“We anticipate a lot of great conversations that are going on now and still anticipate to be on that timeline [of launching expansion team or teams in 2020].”
How many teams could launch in 2020?
“It would depend [on how many teams will join],” Duffy said. “We certainly would like to get back to 10, where we were a year ago, I think that’s important for us. The right number where this league can operate and keep the competitive level that we have right now is really important.”
And Duffy emphasized that the league was not looking to rush into expansion, which is understandable in context of the Western New York Flash moving to North Carolina the offseason after winning the league title, the rapid relocation of FC Kansas City to Utah last year and the shock folding of the Boston Breakers last year after the NWSL Draft.
“There’s some markets that we’re focused on. None that we’ll share at this time. But markets that we’re focused on and making strides with groups that we’re talking to.”
“We’re not interested in expanding just to expand. It’s got to be with the right groups.”
So it sounds promising but we’ll have to see what happens and if Los Angeles finally gets a team before long.
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